It is at this time of year that we start thinking about making changes to our diet after the Christmas period. The pressure created by the media in January to “Lose Weight”, “Detox”, “Go Sugar Free”, “Eat More Superfoods, etc etc is overwhelming for some people. You cannot turn a page in most lifestyle and food magazines without there being an article around these themes never mind the number of TV Ads that promote weight loss.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve your goal of eating healthier whether it be to lose weight or to feel better after having overindulged for most of December.

Here are some simple tips on what you can do to get off to a good start in 2018

  1. Clear out your cupboards of all the unhealthy temptations! Replace with healthy snacks and store cupboard ingredients that are good for creating healthy meals. See list suggestions at the end.
  2. Include plenty of vegetables in your diet and stick to complex carbohydrates rather then refined. Refined are white flour based foods, white rice and pasta plus sugary foods. Aim for your meal plate to be made up of 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 complex carbohydrates and 1/2 non starchy vegetables. For those who want to lose weight reduce carbohydrates in the evening. This does not apply to children since their needs are different. Complex carbohydrates include; potatoes, brown rice, bulgur, wheat berries, wholegrain bread and wholemeal pasta.
  3. Eat a rainbow – different coloured vegetables and fruits have different nutrients. Make sure you have plenty of variety. Fruit and vegetables are our main source of vitamins and minerals. 
  4. Manage portion sizes – for example vegetables are roughly 80g a serving, protein e.g chicken, fish, tofu, red meat 100 to 120g, carbohydrates e.g brown rice, bulgur 60g dried and potatoes 150g. Aim to have at least 3 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit a day.
  5. Focus on managing your blood sugar – this will help you to maintain energy levels and manage your appetite. Eat regular meals and snacks which always combine protein with fibre. This will help to keep you fuller for longer and stabilise blood sugar. Having a snack in the afternoon means you will not be so hungry in the evening.
  6. Keep hydrated – drink plenty of water (1 1/2 litres a day) or non caffeinated herbal teas.
  7. Avoid too much saturated fats found in cheese, butter and meat, include plenty of good fats for example oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado. Be mindful of how much you have, whilst these fats are good for you they are also high in calories.
  8. Avoid processed foods and ready meals. Often these foods are high in saturated fats, salt and sugar. Better to cook from scratch, even using foods like tinned tuna and some of the pre cooked packaged whole grains are a better option then the ready made meals. To save time consider batch cooking and freezing. Soups and casseroles freeze well or keep for several days in the fridge. Consider using a recipe kit service for example Gousto. This is a good way to cook at home with fresh ingredients without the stress of having to plan and shop.
  9. Plan your meals – it is so much easier to follow a healthy diet if you plan ahead especially if you have children. There are many healthy meals that can be made in less then 40 minutes. One example is a tray bake with roasted chicken legs or breast with roasted vegetables. Chop some sweet potatoes, courgette, and red peppers. Spread them out in a roasting tin, add a tin of tomatoes, top with the chicken, season well and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
  10. Keep a recipe folder – once you find a recipe that works well  for you take a copy of it and put it in a folder. This way you will build up a good repertoire of recipes which you can easily access without having to remember where you saw it or what you did.

Good snack options

Fruit with a few nuts (4 or 5) or a handful of seeds 
A thin spread of nut butter on oat cakes
Hummus with vegetable sticks – you can also make your own dips by blending tinned white beans with roasted red peppers mixed with chopped coriander and lemon juice.
Greek or soya yoghurt with berries and a handful of seeds
Low sugar protein bars – remember to check the labels as these can often be high in sugar

Good foods to have in your store cupboard

Tinned tuna
Sardines
Tinned tomatoes
Packaged cooked grains for example Merchant Gourmet have a wide range
Nuts
Seeds; pumpkin, flaxseeds, sunflower etc. These can be added to salads and soup or eaten as a snack
Brown rice
Bulgur
Quinoa
Oat cakes
Ryvita
Nut butter (sugar free)
Lentils dried
Porridge oats
Tinned beans for example butter beans, cannellini beans
Soy sauce
Chicken and vegetable stock cubes
Tahini – mix 1 tbsp with 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 2 tsp honey, 50 ml water for a really good dressing that can be used with fish, chicken, tofu or on roasted vegetables.
Olive oil
Sunflower oil